20.12.14

Stealth Camping part 2 .............. How (not to be seen)

So in part one of this series we considered the reason WHY we stealth camp and it was decided that this was due to land owners not allowing access to their land, be it due to greed, misunderstanding or maybe even fear - the reasons can be as different as the people who own the land we want to move across.
 
 
We can of course practice stealth camping on land we have access to also - again there are many reasons for this - fun, nature watching or maybe even traditionalism or re-enacting of the past. As I have said before I quite often image a scenario where I am a frontiersmen and everyone else are hostile natives - it amuses me to do so.
 
Whatever the reason for us wishing to camp and not be seen/make our presence known the skill set required isn't really that complicated to learn as long as we can apply simple rules and some common sense.
 
Firstly lets consider the skills of the ultimate stealth campers of modern times - the military. As a soldier myself I can honestly say that many times over the years we lay up in hides, RV's and various OP's etc often in hostile territory and often very close to civilian properties or towns but always undetected by the local population (when we wanted to be). Even in training, bearing in mind we were training for war when "fulltac" we followed a hard routine designed to make our presence invisible to any enemy forces.
 
Now I am not saying that all the skills used by the army are pertinent to stealth camping but they are a good foundation to work from. Of course we do not need to lay snap ambushes or practice all round defence or stand to at first or last light - indeed as a civilian acting overly cautious or stealthily we might even be viewed with suspicion but in this part of the series I want to highlight some military skills that should be at the back of our mind when we pack our gear, hike and/or decided on a camp site.
 
Ok, so the first thing we need to consider is why we might be seen - SHAPE, SHINE, SILHOUTTE, SOUND, MOVEMENT and COLOUR, one or more of these will be what give us away. The more of these we combine the more likely we will be seen. For example a square tarp, being an unnatural shape in nature, will stand out against a back ground of round and twisted foliage. If the square tarp is black the difference will be more pronounced. If it is Orange it will catch even the eye of those not looking for it let alone those who are. So lets consider the above.
 
SHAPE - as mentioned there is very little in nature that is angular, most camouflage materials are designed to break up or soften such obvious things. So where possible we should avoid erecting shelters that look like little boxes ........... if we cant do this a leaf can be taken out of the militaries book, Basha's (shelters made from poncho's) are never to be any higher than 18" above the ground, this usually means your roof is lower than the surrounding foliage and will not be sky lined or similar. Shape also includes are gear and ourselves too so keep that in mind.
 
 
Shape and shine
 
SHINE - maybe this is the most obvious thing as it doesn't take much imagination to realise that a reflective surface will catch the eye. So with this in mind muted and natural colours are always wisely used. But shine can also mean light - it is odd to me how little light discipline civilians have in the woods. It took my usual travelling companion some time and much moaning from myself to learn good night discipline. Good kit husbandry can help with light discipline as 90% of the time we tend to need to use torches to find things or move stuff around etc. If we have everything packed away except our sleeping gear before last light (for example) then we will a, know where everything is. B, not lose anything and not need to use our torch to find things. Also using a torch ruins our natural night vision so try to not use a torch and use your night vision instead - if you need to try and see a object better at night try looking slightly off to one side of it you will be amazed how well that works. As I will cover later ideally we will only get our bedding out just before last light and as such this is when we pack the rest away. Also consider your fire - the light from a fire can shine through the woods a considerable distance. It is no accident that there are so many accounts of various people from mountain men and ancient warriors not lighting fires at night for fear of giving away there positions. I am not saying don't have a fire, most of the time when I am out I have one for sure. All I would say is learn to have a "discreet" one and light it after last light. Indeed there are many fire lays we can use such as the Dakota fire pit that are ideal for this, just remember to use the day light for fire wood gathering! A old saying is "Indian make fire keep warm. White man make fire keep warm gathering fire wood!" - a small fire will do everything a big fire will do generally and it will save you hard work in the process.
 
 

Silhoutte
 

SILHOUTTE - again sounds obvious, if you pitch camp on the top of a hill or even in an open field anyone looking up hill will see you against the sky line - this can also be true of the individual going about tasks such as gathering fire wood. A game keeper or the neighbour of a land owner who sees someone where they shouldn't be may report it or investigate it.
 
SOUND - the military practice doing everything without speaking, these "DRILLS" are practiced over and over again until they become second nature. Whispered conversation is the norm on exercise or deployment to a soldier - soldiers pack their webbing so nothing rattles etc etc - civilians generally don't even tone down their voices which in town are usually raised to be heard over the background noise of cars and TV's etc but more than this even the sound of chopping wood can carry a long way so we need to practice or approach out bushcraft differently too. I remember hearing a story about Jed Smith (a famous mountain man) who reportedly would only fire a single shot when hunting, the reason supposedly was that the Indians could track down a man if he fired a second shot! Another thing people seldom realise is how far sound carries at night - like light sound discipline is a good habit to get into.
 
 
MOVEMENT - like silhouette is all about avoiding doing things that will catch the eye. Consider the fact that we are predators by nature and our eyes are forward facing as such we often rely on our peripheral vision to alert us to things we cant see - this means that someone not even looking for or at you will be attracted to you or your camp if they detect movement especially sharp, fast or unnatural movements.
 
COLOUR - again as mentioned colours can aid us in rescue but on the flip side they will give us away if we are trying to avoid being seen. Most animals don't see colour but we humans do and in stealth camping muted colours are best. Also consider the fact that a green tarp will look out of place if erected on a sandy beach. Nessmuk says that field grey is the best colour for the hunter and certainly this was deemed so by several armies. One thing to consider also when we consider colour is camouflage, dressing like a soldier or a hunter when hiking in the local woods might just catch the eye of someone too. Temper all your kit with common sense army surplus gear is good to use but try not to dress head to toe in DPM or flecktarn if you can help it.
 
Light and colour
 
OK so there is something to think about - if we start be practicing how not to be seen then we can work on how to camp with minimum impact of our environment and on the lives of those creatures around us be they bird, beast or man!
 
In the next part we'll consider how we go about locating and setting up a camp.
 
This will likely be in 2015, so with Christmas and the New Year fast approaching I will also take the opportunity to thank all my readers for taking the time to read my ramblings and forgive me my poor grammar and spelling. I hope that in so doing I have shared not only my love of the subject but also some gems of knowledge to enhance your outdoor lives. This year has been a good year for bushcraft and a turning point has been reached thanks to people like Dave Canterbury, that turning point has been the move back toward more traditional bushcraft.
 
I have also noticed that many of the bushcrafters I admire, particularly on you tube, now are not only making more of their own gear but are also proudly hunting out bargains - a positive step away from the commercial fast buck bushcraft industry that was so prevalent in the 90's and early noughties.  
 
All of which gives me hope for the future of our hobby and the skills we cherish.

So with this in mind I wish you all a very happy Christmas and the best of all things in a healthy, wealthy and happy New Year.


4.11.14

Stealth camping part one - why?

This, dear reader, will be a short post (thank God you say!)
 
The reason for my writing is simple, it is merely to outline what I feel pertinent with regards to stealth camping.
 
Unless someone can prove otherwise I believe I was instrumental in coining the phrase back at the end of the 20th century. Not that that matters although I thought I'd point it out in case someone trade marks the words (lol) ....... seriously with the way these forums are these days who knows what their up to?
 
And with a few of the lesser known schools out there now offering courses in stealth camping (yes they do!) I thought I'd write a brief piece too.
 
So why stealth camp??
 
Well, I don't know about my overseas friends but here in UK every square inch of land is owned by someone and usually that someone isn't inclined to share it. Now this I can understand in some ways as some places are SSSI or similar, others are used as businesses from farming to lumber etc ..... but a lot of these areas aren't. A lot of wooded areas are owned by faceless corporations or universities for example and as such are never used or managed in anyway.
 
Those that aren't, those whose owners work them in someway or have other interests in them are usually protected from strangers because the owners (often rightly) fear that trespassers will damage something and in the process probably cost them money having the clean up a mess or repair something.
 
Sadly this is a common fear among land owners and one not in a small part caused by them. How so I hear you say? Well, generations of banishing the common man from the land has lead to the present  progeny being so far removed from the field and stream as to seeing them as almost alien landscapes, landscapes void of xbox or other forms of entertainment and as such fit for little more than destruction or to be used as dumping grounds.
 
Worse in some ways are those bushcrafters or outdoorsy types who half understand the importance of a outdoor life, who actively seek the forests seclusion but who, possibly through no fault of the their own don't understand the etiquette and the rules of its usage and as such drop littler, damaged plants and trees or light fires and leave ugly fire rings filled with burnt beer cans and other rubbish. Take for instance the humble dog walker who instinctively knows walking Rover through the woods is good for both hound and master and as such will make the pilgrimage. Yet let Rover do his business and the walker will obediently pick up their poop and then against all logic throw the plastic bag into the bushes - their education tells them the poop is a bad thing but their lack of education doesn't stretch to allowing them to understand that said poop in the woods would break down naturally and join in someway the food chain, so they pick it up like they should on the city street however wrapped as it now is in a plastic time capsule it'll be around a lot longe!!  
 
We have no right to roam or All mans rights as Scotland or Sweden respectively do, so here in England and Wales we have little choice about how we go about our bushcraft.
 
Generally, the choices are limited to,
 
1. Day hikes around the semi-wild woodland areas such as woodland trust or forestry commission lands.
2. Campsites, usually manicure lawned and campfire barred.
3. Going on courses or similar - where we can at least practise our skills.
4. Back yard bushcraft - probably more common than we think, or people let on, especially among our forum friends.
5. Hiking and camping trips above the dry stone wall line although these usually mean little or no trees etc
6. Trips overseas to countries where a better outdoor culture exists.
 
All the above except maybe 6 usually mean no campfire and little by way of wood to practice fire lighting or carving etc.
 
Or we are forced to stealth camp.  
 
Readers may have heard me liken stealth camping to the exploited of the American frontiersmen or mountain men as I find this a simplified but fun way to look at things. We, the bushcrafter, are of course the Daniel Boone or Jim Bridger character while the land owner and their agents, in their many forms, are the native Americans, the savage of classical literature.
 
For us being discovered and "captured" will probably mean being moved on as trespass is a civil offence and as long as you don't argue and haven't damaged anything then there is no issue that will require the Police or further action. Our frontiersmen on the other hand if captured might at best be faced with slavery at worse be faced with a slow torture or even being roasted over the fire - so the level of danger and the risks taken are slightly different but the thrill and skill are similar.
 
 
In part two we will talk about how to stealth camp and a few simple ground rules to abide by ...........key among these is the use of common sense!!



24.10.14

Dual Survival .............. another one bites the dust

I have to admit I haven't watched Dual Survival since DC was sacked - I'm not saying it was he who made the show, I like Cody as much, but the chemistry or lack of it was good and made the viewing for me.

Exit Dave for telling porkies about his military service ............

Now it appears the guy they replaced him with ..........errrr whats his name?? Most of you might not even know it --- anyway it's Joe Teti, has also come unstuck for fibbing about his military credentials ................

http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20141007/NEWS/310070068/Major-sponsor-drops-Dual-Survival-star-Teti-fires-back-critics

Seems DUAL SURVIVALS days are numbered - that said if Discovery want a real soldier etc etc I am available ...........

21.10.14

US Army M65 Field Jacket ............. style

 
Me, living in a cave, Western Scotland, 2003
 
Anyone who knows me, knows I like the US army M65 jacket and have done for many years (picture above was taken 11 years ago). This renowned jacket is not only a outdoor legend it is also very practical and hard wearing. 
 
Now there are those who will sing the praises of the genuine M65 jacket, and there are those of us who look at each item in its own light. What is a genuine M65 jacket anyway? Some will say it's a Alpha Industries jacket, others one made by Propper, still others the Rothco one. Well me, I don't care, ALL I will say is that since I am pretty sure it's no longer issued and the genuine issued one's are getting rarer and rarer you might as well go with what is available. 

 

With that in mind the above picture shows three makers models of the same jacket left to right - Alpha industries, MIL-TEC and Teestar Inc (Carterville GA) so what are the differences? What makes one better than the rest and why do I like them?

A brief history - the M1965 Field jacket was brought into service to replace the M1951 jacket which was the model to replace the classic m1943. One key feature of the M65 jacket is the button in liner which was popular with troops during the Vietnam war where the weather could fluctuate from hot humid days to freezing cold nights and this same feature is also one which I find attractive as a bushcrafter and outdoorsman.

The basic features of these jackets regardless of type is as follows -

  1. Concealed Hood
  2. Button Epaulets
  3. Interior Liner
  4. Wind/water resistant outer shell
  5. Brass Zip
  6. Press stud closure storm flap
  7. Press stud closure pockets
  8. Draw string at waist and bottom
  9. Velcro adjustable Cuffs
  10. Reinforced pockets
  11. Button in Quilted liner


Alpha Industries - M65 jacket - green. This is the most expense model retailing at around £100 without the liner. It is a heavy jacket but likewise very tough and robust down to its Cotton Nylon mix material outer. The lower pockets are larger on this jacket the other models I have. Zip on neck is brass as well as that on the front of the jacket. The overall weight and feel of the jacket reflects the quality of materials used and makes it a jacket that will last its owner many years.
 
The quilted liner is equal to the jacket being designed to button into the jacket but also so it can be worn on its own having both buttons and hand warmer pockets it is a nice addition to the jacket and the knitted elasticated cuffs round off things nicely.


The Mil-Spec M65 jacket is similar however the shade of green is more field green than the foliage green of the Alpha model. Other differences are that this jacket is made of a lighter weight cotton polyester which I find is a lot faster drying than the above model a feature that is a definite benefit in the field. The zip on the neck is a plastic type but the main zip is still brass. Lower pockets don't feel as big as other jackets I own but they serve their purpose.

The quilted liner, while OK is more basic and oddly I found the sleeves a little short and one of them thinner than the other - this was quite restrictive and uncomfortable to wear - it also lacked the buttons and pockets of its more expensive cousin too.

Price wise this jacket is half the price of the Alpha and yet I find it to be as serviceable in the field if not more so due to the polycotton it is made of.


Teestar Inc Caterville GA - this is a jacket that sits comfortably between the two above. Firstly I have to say the camouflage on this jacket is, and I use the term as I find it best to describe it, Beautiful - I am in love with this cam listed as FG. I assume it means either Forest or Foliage Green but regardless of its true definition it is a pattern I really like. As an ex soldier I usually shy away from camouflage jackets but not in this baby!!
 
OK so what about the jacket? Well, its polycotton (a good thing) it has a brass zip both on the neck and the front of the jacket (so a good thing too) the lower pockets are a good size (another good thing) although still not quite as big as the Alpha. The jackets overall feel is good, it is light and comfortable to wear - I can certainly get all my possibles in the pockets including a wool hat and gloves, pocket knife and folding saw as well the usual stuff, first aid kit, compass, sharpening stone, tinder pouch etc etc.
 
The quilted liner is also slightly better than the above one it has a reinforced pair of buttons at the collar and the sleeves are both a good length and width making it very warm and comfortable to wear. Sadly no pockets but it does at least have buttons so can be worn on its own.
 
Price wise this model comes in at around £15 more expensive than the above and yet is still half the price of the Alpha. So over all it is a excellent item.
 
All the above models tick the bushcraft boxes, they are all tough and safe around the fire (sometimes this is a over rated necessity to be honest) the liner makes for easy layering and the general cut of the jacket makes it look equally good on the street as well as in the field. The foldaway hood isn't much but it'll help cut the wind and as insulation so I'd rather have one than not and the sewn in liner means the jacket works well as a outer if worn over just a t-shirt but in hot weather I find I can happily wear the jacket on its own as both base and outer layer without worry.
 
So there you go dear reader a brief insight into why I like the m65 and having worn them year round in varying weather conditions for 10 or more years I think I can safely say you cant go far wrong with one.
 
 Thanks for reading this article and following my blog - I hope you've enjoyed it and posts past and future too.
 
 

30.9.14

New beginnings, new site - happy days are here again!!

Life it seems moves on whether we know it or not.
 
After several months of stress and worry things have settled down and I could not be happier, so with "the real world" now sorted out time to return to the forest.
 
It feels like a life time ago that I last managed to get out and enjoy a evening in the forest so I was more than pleased when Steve managed to get a few days off so we could get into the hills and have a hike and an overnighter - more importantly it was also a recce for future trips off my own and a chance to see how Scampi would behave in the woods for the night.
 
 

The weather was good and I had planned a route that included a couple of pubs as I felt a pub lunch was called for too!!

Myself I had my trusty old PLCE and Steve a equally trusty old LK35, Our kit was minimal as we like to keep to the basics.

The hike out was great, especially as we left my front door and almost straight way were on the route - One advantage of my new home is that I have seven national trails all within walking distance!


The route was across a mixture of lowland fens followed by the rolling hills of the Hampshire countryside.



In all my years of living and working in the outdoors I think this is the first time I have seen beech nuts open and ready to harvest/eat on the tree - one sure thing about nature she always has a new treat in store for those who truly love her - she's a good ol' girl like that!



After a hot and humid 6 or 7 miles, parched and hungry, we arrived at the pub I had aimed to have lunch at .............. and it truly was the lunch of Kings ............




That was one hell of a burger - however soon we were back on the trail and our final leg into the forest and what we hoped would be our home for the night.






 


As always the forest welcomed us into its dapple shade. Week days most woodlands in Britain are the domain of the deer and wilder beasts although Dog walkers tend to pop up all over the place too, so finding a quiet spot is usually a matter of skill, judgement and the ability to stealth camp ............... although as I have often said, that is as much part of the fun as anything.



My shelter, decided to rig my poncho diamond shelter style so I could store my pack and the also create a living space for the dog behind my sleeping bag. Have to say it worked well maximising the area of the poncho very well.



My cook system, again keeping it simple, was a DDR mess kit, folding kuksa and a trangia stove - one good thing about a trangia is that when full of fuel it will generally allow you a weekend/about four boils of the kettle. This kitchen works well for me as I can carry 24hrs rations in the mess tins including brew kit and it is compact and light.


 
Our evening was calm. The setting sun mellowed us as we sat before the fire and chilled out - roughing it smooth for sure!!
 

This was the view from my bedroom window in the morning - it actually doesn't do it justice and the rising sun burnt golden shadows across the shallow re-entrant below me and turned the whole forest warmest yellow. Just awakening to such beauty does the soul good and reminds a man of his place in the scheme of things.


And even Scampi seemed to enjoy his night out - snug in his fleece line dog coat he surpassed my expectations too - Daniel Boone and many a frontiersmen went off in the company of their hounds, indeed I am sure a man and a dog in the woods together is a sight that probably dates back into the dawn of our species for once that first wolf pup was domesticated it would have become both friend and protector of man. Even today we can still enjoy that relationship and the wise woodsman also learns to watch his dog and use its senses to enhance his own!!

Great trip and cant wait for the next!!

2.9.14

DAVE CANTERBURY'S BUSHCRAFT 101


 

Dave Canterbury's bushcraft  101 has been reviewed before, I have seen at least one review on a US forum slatting the book but what the reviewer seemed to fail to understand is the definition of the term 101 -

101 Definition / 101 Means

The definition of 101 is "Basic introduction"


With this in mind the reader knows what to expect and that is exactly what you get. It is a VERY basic book aimed at the beginner.

Over half the content is about kit - not skills although there are little snippets of such dotted about the book. This is great for the beginner and there is even a kit list broken down from pocket kit all the way up to rucksack but oddly this list is at odds with the further chapters?

As a for example in the kit list (found at 10% on the kindle) makes no mention of any form of water carriage ie bottle and yet he later goes on to talk about water bottles and which are best, pointing out how important water is ...... so why no water bottle on the kit list??

OK it might be an over site, if you read the whole book you should realise this but as the book seems to be aimed at the novice they might not get this! More to the point if they were to just copy out the kit list and pack it before heading off to the woods they would soon be thirsty and potentially, in a desert area, this might prove deadly!

So if you are a novice and buy this book please cross reference everything to ensure you cover yourself. Oh ya and if you practice bow drill while the image in the book probably isn't drawn by Dave I should point of the loop on the bow is on the wrong side of the string - loop on the outside generally makes bow drilling more successful in my experience.

There are some good items in the book also - plans for a axe sheath for example. And a lot of items about traditional gear which interested me even though I have made Roycroft frames and done the whole blanket roll thing it still made good reading.

One thing I did like about the book was that it gave me pause to consider and rethink my own kit - something I do all the time anyway.

So pros' - its a easy read, the few pictures it contains are clear, the recipes at the back are handy and I will be trying the hard tack one tonight. If your a beginner this book is clear and concise with good kit definitions.

Con's - very few pictures, nothing new to be found in the pages if you have any experience. The odd, blatant plug for his own brand/shop cheapened the book and seemed a little cynical to me.

Summary - a good book for a beginner, a good read for anyone with a few hours to spare but not inspiring to none novices. DC fans will probably like it and I'd recommend it to any newbie confused about what kit to carry or buy but beyond that it didn't live up to what I was expecting or hoping for. All that said I don't regret the £7 I spent on it for my kindle but I wouldn't pay more for it.

Lastly, Ray Mears once said that any book you read, if you can gleen one snippet of info from it, is worth the read. By that definition it is worth a read but only just.